skip to main content


Title: An Optically Discovered Outburst from XTE J1859+226
Abstract

Using the Zwicky Transient Facility, in 2021 February we identified the first known outburst of the black hole X-ray transient XTE J1859+226 since its discovery in 1999. The outburst was visible at X-ray, UV, and optical wavelengths for less than 20 days, substantially shorter than its full outburst of 320 days in 1999, and the observed peak luminosity was 2 orders of magnitude lower. Its peak bolometric luminosity was only 2 × 1035erg s−1, implying an Eddington fraction of about 3 × 10−4. The source remained in the hard spectral state throughout the outburst. From optical spectroscopy measurements we estimate an outer disk radius of 1011cm. The low observed X-ray luminosity is not sufficient to irradiate the entire disk, but we observe a surprising exponential decline in the X-ray light curve. These observations highlight the potential of optical and infrared synoptic surveys to discover low-luminosity activity from X-ray transients.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1812779
NSF-PAR ID:
10467616
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Volume:
956
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0004-637X
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: Article No. 21
Size(s):
["Article No. 21"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Progenitor models for the “luminous” subclass of Fast Blue Optical Transients (LFBOTs; prototype: AT2018cow) are challenged to simultaneously explain all of their observed properties: fast optical rise times of days or less; peak luminosities ≳1044erg s−1; low yields ≲0.1Mof56Ni; aspherical ejecta with a wide velocity range (≲3000 km s−1to ≳0.1–0.5cwith increasing polar latitude); presence of hydrogen-depleted-but-not-free dense circumstellar material (CSM) on radial scales from ∼1014cm to ∼3 × 1016cm; embedded variable source of non-thermal X-ray/γ-rays, suggestive of a compact object. We show that all of these properties are consistent with the tidal disruption and hyper-accretion of a Wolf-Rayet (WR) star by a black hole or neutron star binary companion. In contrast with related previous models, the merger occurs with a long delay (≳100 yr) following the common envelope (CE) event responsible for birthing the binary, as a result of gradual angular momentum loss to a relic circumbinary disk. Disk-wind outflows from the merger-generated accretion flow generate the56Ni-poor aspherical ejecta with the requisite velocity range. The optical light curve is powered primarily by reprocessing X-rays from the inner accretion flow/jet, though CSM shock interaction also contributes. Primary CSM sources include WR mass loss from the earliest stages of the merger (≲1014cm) and the relic CE disk and its photoevaporation-driven wind (≳1016cm). Longer delayed mergers may instead give rise to supernovae Type Ibn/Icn (depending on the WR evolutionary state), connecting these transient classes with LFBOTs.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    We present observations of ASASSN-20hx, a nearby ambiguous nuclear transient (ANT) discovered in NGC 6297 by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN). We observed ASASSN-20hx from −30 to 275 days relative to the peak UV/optical emission using high-cadence, multiwavelength spectroscopy and photometry. From Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite data, we determine that the ANT began to brighten on 2020 June 22.8 with a linear rise in flux for at least the first week. ASASSN-20hx peaked in the UV/optical 30 days later on 2020 July 22.8 (MJD = 59052.8) at a bolometric luminosity ofL= (3.15 ± 0.04) × 1043erg s−1. The subsequent decline is slower than any TDE observed to date and consistent with many other ANTs. Compared to an archival X-ray detection, the X-ray luminosity of ASASSN-20hx increased by an order of magnitude toLx∼ 1.5 × 1042erg s−1and then slowly declined over time. The X-ray emission is well fit by a power law with a photon index of Γ ∼ 2.3–2.6. Both the optical and near-infrared spectra of ASASSN-20hx lack emission lines, unusual for any known class of nuclear transient. While ASASSN-20hx has some characteristics seen in both tidal disruption events and active galactic nuclei, it cannot be definitively classified with current data.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    We present a toy model for the thermal optical/UV/X-ray emission from tidal disruption events (TDEs). Motivated by recent hydrodynamical simulations, we assume that the debris streams promptly and rapidly circularize (on the orbital period of the most tightly bound debris), generating a hot quasi-spherical pressure-supported envelope of radiusRv∼ 1014cm (photosphere radius ∼1015cm) surrounding the supermassive black hole (SMBH). As the envelope cools radiatively, it undergoes Kelvin–Helmholtz contractionRvt−1, its temperature risingTefft1/2while its total luminosity remains roughly constant; the optical luminosity decays asνLνRv2Tefft3/2. Despite this similarity to the mass fallback rateṀfbt5/3, envelope heating from fallback accretion is subdominant compared to the envelope cooling luminosity except near optical peak (where they are comparable). Envelope contraction can be delayed by energy injection from accretion from the inner envelope onto the SMBH in a regulated manner, leading to a late-time flattening of the optical/X-ray light curves, similar to those observed in some TDEs. Eventually, as the envelope contracts to near the circularization radius, the SMBH accretion rate rises to its maximum, in tandem with the decreasing optical luminosity. This cooling-induced (rather than circularization-induced) delay of up to several hundred days may account for the delayed onset of thermal X-rays, late-time radio flares, and high-energy neutrino generation, observed in some TDEs. We compare the model predictions to recent TDE light-curve correlation studies, finding both agreement and points of tension.

     
    more » « less
  4. ABSTRACT

    We report on the SRG/eROSITA detection of ultra-soft ($kT=47^{+5}_{-5}$ eV) X-ray emission (LX =$2.5^{+0.6}_{-0.5} \times 10^{43}$ erg s−1) from the tidal disruption event (TDE) candidate AT 2022dsb ∼14 d before peak optical brightness. As the optical luminosity increases after the eROSITA detection, then the 0.2–2 keV observed flux decays, decreasing by a factor of ∼39 over the 19 d after the initial X-ray detection. Multi-epoch optical spectroscopic follow-up observations reveal transient broad Balmer emission lines and a broad He ii 4686 Å emission complex with respect to the pre-outburst spectrum. Despite the early drop in the observed X-ray flux, the He ii 4686  Å complex is still detected for ∼40 d after the optical peak, suggesting the persistence of an obscured hard ionizing source in the system. Three outflow signatures are also detected at early times: (i) blueshifted H α emission lines in a pre-peak optical spectrum, (ii) transient radio emission, and (iii) blueshifted Ly α absorption lines. The joint evolution of this early-time X-ray emission, the He ii 4686 Å complex, and these outflow signatures suggests that the X-ray emitting disc (formed promptly in this TDE) is still present after optical peak, but may have been enshrouded by optically thick debris, leading to the X-ray faintness in the months after the disruption. If the observed early-time properties in this TDE are not unique to this system, then other TDEs may also be X-ray bright at early times and become X-ray faint upon being veiled by debris launched shortly after the onset of circularization.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    We report the discovery of 1RXH J082623.6−505741, a 10.4 hr orbital period compact binary. Modeling extensive optical photometry and spectroscopy reveals a ∼0.4MK-type secondary transferring mass through a low-state accretion disk to a nonmagnetic ∼0.8Mwhite dwarf. The secondary is overluminous for its mass and dominates the optical spectra at all epochs and must be evolved to fill its Roche Lobe at this orbital period. The X-ray luminosityLX∼ 1–2 × 1032erg s−1derived from both new XMM-Newton and archival observations, although high compared to most CVs, still only requires a modest accretion rate onto the white dwarf ofṀ∼ 3 × 10−11to 3 × 10−10Myr−1, lower than expected for a cataclysmic variable with an evolved secondary. No dwarf nova outbursts have yet been observed from the system, consistent with the low derived mass-transfer rate. Several other cataclysmic variables with similar orbital periods also show unexpectedly low mass-transfer rates, even though selection effects disfavor the discovery of binaries with these properties. This suggests the abundance and evolutionary state of long-period, low mass-transfer rate cataclysmic variables are worthy of additional attention.

     
    more » « less